I know how to use a gun, but I’d rather not. In a fight, I’d rather walk away. I imagine you feel the same.
The same rule applies to writing. I know the big words in the English language. I’ve taught Latin for decades. Most of the big words in English come from Latin. 90% of them, in fact.
In fact, I even have a four volume DVD series dedicated to many of the big words in English. If you are interested, and if you want to watch me make a fool of myself, check out Word Up.
Nonetheless, I avoid using big words. Like guns, I know how to use them… but, I’d rather not.
I am with Ernest Hemmingway on this one. He once said, “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But, there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”
My goal is simple. I want to be understood. I want to make sure my writing is easy to read and easy to understand.
To ensure this happens, I use the 4S rule. The 4S rule (a rule I picked up from copywriter Bob Bly) is simple.
Use Small words, Short sentences, Short paragraphs and Short sections.
Basically, I ask myself. How would Cicero (the ancient Roman author known as the Great Bore to C.S. Lewis) write this?
Then, I do the opposite.
If you make a living by writing, as I do, then consider keeping it simple.